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Paper Water

What happens when a development is approved based on the results of a water study, not on the true availability of the water…
“Show Me the Water” : Sustainablog

In the past, Moore explained, development projects have been approved based on “paper water”–or, water availability proved in reports–and not on actual water availability.
In a handout given at the conference, Moore writes, “The problem of paper water–in its simplest terms, of development decisions grounded in expectations of water exceeding what can actually be delivered–predictably arose from a long disconnect between water planning and land use decision-making. The relationship between water and land development is such an indelible theme in California that one of its leading water historians, William Kahrl, described “the history of California in the twentieth century” as “the story of a state inventing itself with water.”

This idea of paper water is one that is pretty new, and it exists on a number of levels. The most obvious is the actual supply of water in pipes to a development, but on a larger scale, it involves issues with watershed management, looking at longer term issues.

Unfortunately, most municipalities are reliant on information provided by consultants, who often work for a developer, rather than the municipality. Difficulties arise when requirements for longer term studies or planning are brought up as part of the development review process.

It’s safe to say that most developers are working on a shorter timeframe than municipalities. These comments are particularly true in the Southern States of the US, where water is running out, development is still occurring and no one seems to be taking much notice of the scientist’s concerns of water running out.

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Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.